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Gender-based violence is a crime against humanity: A tribute to Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba



Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba

by Prof Tinyiko Maluleke

13 February 2023

It is not inevitable that women will be subjected to violence. Natural disasters do not occur when women are abused. It is a crime committed systematically and frequently by men in a culture that is not only tolerant of it, but actually encourages it. In this case, we should pitch our interventions at a higher level.

There should be a law that makes it illegal for the vice-chancellor of this university or any other university to utter the statements I am about to utter. Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)‘s history will remember this speech as one that was made at the wrong time, at the wrong place, and was prompted by an act so heinous.

A 21st birthday would have been celebrated by Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba on Sunday, 12 February. Umama uTholakele Shezi, her recently deceased mother, would probably have taken time to connect with her spirit on her birthday.

Mayenziwe Xaba

Among Ntokozo’s favorite names was ugogo uPetty Shezi, which is how she would have called her beloved grandmother. She would have told her grandmother how much she loved her grandmother, and how much she admired the old woman who raised her.

In Ntokozo’s eyes, her grandmother was a symbol of what the Xaba and Shezi clans hoped for.

The uncles of Ntokozo, especially uncle Nkosingiphile Mabuza, would have congratulated her on her achievement. If she had spoken to her uncle sooner, she would have told him that she would be finishing her national diploma in integrated communication in a record time. Isn’t that great? Her academic performance was excellent!

On the occasion of her birthday, Ntokozo reminisces with her brother uNhlakanipho, who graduated from TUT recently as well. It is also possible that Ntokozo would have confided in her brother about the toxic relationship she had had with her boyfriend and how she eventually managed to end it.

The life of Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba was cut short some time between the 1st and 2nd of February.

We will not know the details until we receive a report from the police and until the court process has been completed. There is no doubt that Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba was killed, not just died.

In addition to Nosicelo Mthebeni, Uyinene Mrwetyana, Tshegofatso Pule, Nosipho Mandleleni, Karabo Mokoena, Zolile Khumalo, Jesse Hess, Reeva Steenkamp and hundreds, if not thousands of other names, Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba was now part of a long list of individuals who have made a substantial contribution to South Africa.

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These women were murdered by men. Black men. White men. Old men. Young men. Rich men. Poor men. Powerful men. Powerless men. Educated men. Uneducated men.

It is not their braai prowess or their beer-drinking stunts that make South African men unique. It is neither their national flag nor their national anthem.

The brutality and heartlessness with which South African men keep women in a state of constant terror set them apart from their peers around the world.

War against women

Our fraying country must have a factory in its dark underbelly that constantly manufactures killer men and distributes them strategically across all its nooks and crannies. Murderers masquerading as boyfriends, husbands and uncles appear in every tribe, race, class, and geographic locale.

Our democracy is the most at risk from this low-intensity war against women.

We There’s no limit to the plans we can write, the policies we craft and the strategies we devise, the technology we deploy, and the loftiest dreams we can dream – but as long as we continue to terrorize and kill women and children, our lofty national plans, all our dreams, will remain a mirage and a charade.

Cowardly carnage

South African culture at this time is characterized by a cocktail of violence, but gender-based violence (GBV) stands out as the most cowardly and dastardly. A new crime against humanity is being witnessed by you and me, a generation of South Africans.

The Nazi atrocities of World War 2, the apartheid crime against humanity, the Belgian crimes against humanity in the Congo at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the German crimes against humanity in Namibia at the beginning of the 20th century have all contributed to the shameful litany of crimes against humanity. As the latest installment in the shameful litany of crimes against humanity, men are killing women in this country.

Through our acts of omission and commission, our generation aids and abettes the crime more than they witness it. In addition, the South African crime scene is in danger of turning our generation into bystanders.

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We regret to inform you that yet again a young South African woman has been brutally murdered. Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba is her name. We will not be able to prevent future killings unless we change our behavior as a society.

‘We must do more’

Our usual slogans may not be shouted at this time. There is no point in merely expressing sorrow, shock, and condemnation this time around. It has yet to be proven that either shock or condemnation can save a woman’s life. (Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba)

It won’t do to use this opportunity to prop up obscure GBV initiatives and clean their consciences at the same time.

The higher education sector and South Africa generally are awash with policies, documents, frameworks, studies, task teams, reports, and strategies related to gender-based violence. There are no lack of strategies for preventing men from murdering women in schools, universities, homes, workplaces, or on the street. Our efforts will not be sufficient to confine this to the policing and prosecuting of crime.

Neither the bushes nor the street were used as a hiding place for Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba. The murder took place in the safest possible place, her residence room, where she was supposedly loved, in the company of someone she cared for.

There are women who have been murdered despite the protection orders they carry with them in their handbags. In the presence of protection orders, women are killed. Violence is taught to them.

(Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba)

GBV can be combated by enhancing security, police agility, and judicial judiciousness, but society, customs, culture, and mores play just as crucial a role.

Our children go to schools that are pernicious, influential and above, between and below those schools. This school teaches boys violence skills as well as entitlement skills, entitlement to everything, and most importantly, entitlement to women’s bodies.

Boys and men are taught how to rape, maim, and murder by that pernicious and ubiquitous school. Killer men are produced in factories, and schools produce low self-esteem boys and men whose manhood depends on being able to wound and murder others.

Although I have reservations about slogans shouted, strategies branded, and task teams wielded, few universities have taken more enthusiastic heed of the government’s call to rid higher education of GBV than TUT. TUT has one of the most comprehensive GBV strategies in the country. A task force is in place in our senate to fight GBV. (Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba)

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At our Soshanguve campus, we have a victim empowerment center in collaboration with the SAPS. Several anti-GBV desks have been installed at the Faculty of Arts and Design. As part of our efforts to investigate campus violence scientifically, we established a research chair last year.

In the wake of Ntokozo’s tragic death, our gallant institutional efforts have suffered a serious setback. We may feel discouraged at this time due to the pain in our hearts. The fight against GBV might even cause us to question our efforts and intentions.

(Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba)

Doubling down

Nevertheless, we do not dare to let ourselves be discouraged. Our approach does not involve playing the blame game and pointing fingers.

As a mark of respect and honor for Ntokozo, we must continue to push for zero tolerance for GBV.

Whenever a woman or a student is murdered, it is nothing but an act of terror designed to terrify us into accepting the logic and terror of violence as part of daily life here in this country.(Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba)

It is not inevitable that women will be subjected to violence. There is no natural disaster like violence against women. In a society that tolerates and supports the crime, it is systematically and frequently committed by men. It is at this level that we should pitch our interventions. (Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba)

We must not allow the killers to win for the sake of Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba. The treacherous, cowardly and debilitating logic of gender-based violence must not be succumbed to by institutions of higher learning or society in general.

On 9 February 2023, Professor Tinyiko Maluleke delivered the following speech at the memorial for Ntokozo Mayenziwe Xaba. Tshwane University of Technology’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Tinyiko Maluleke, is one of the most prominent figures in the industry.


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